Across the street from the Sphinx

Friday 6 April 2007

Photos of The Great Sphinx at Giza always show the same vista: The majestic sculpture, staring out on the desert, often with a pyramid or two behind it. They conjure up images of the sandy Sahara, where you can travel for miles before happening upon these enigmatic monuments from the distant past.

Google Maps shows a more complete picture of the environs: The Sphinx looks out on crowded Cairo, about 300 yards away. And to completely contradict the isolated desert image, the Oberoi Mena House Hotel is a luxury resort whose golf course is about 200 yards from the Pyramids (scroll north on the map).

Seeing the Sphinx in its real setting made me wonder about other iconic landmarks. Most seem to be situated as we have come to expect, for example:

  • Stonehenge really is in a rural English setting,
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa is in a crowded European town, (look how different the ethereal white of the church is from the uniformly tiled roofs all around it),
  • The Taj Mahal is in a wide green area in Agra, though the city crowds into it on the south.

Update: I found some photos from the Sphinx, including the KFC it overlooks.


Well - Stonehenge is in a rural setting, but is also right next to a very busy road. Every now and then, they debate putting the road in a tunnel to preserve the idyllic surroundings (and presumably allow for a bigger road while doing so). So far, they've never got quite as far as spending the money.
You're spot-on about the Sphinx: it amazed me how close the sprawl of Cairo comes to the pyramids. Everytime I show people my slides from there I make a point of telling them that Cairo is right behind me. Fortunately it doesn't mitigate the awe of facing those landmarks.
When you said 'seeing [it] in its real setting', you are talking about the picture in larger context as viewed from the web, or did you mean to imply you got to visit it physically? Lack of tabblo links seems to confirm the former.
This is really cool, thanks for sharing.
No, I haven't been to the Sphinx, Dean, and you are right: there would be photos if I had. Just seeing the photos I found on the web were enough to give me the big picture.

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